Report: ‘Unprecedented change’ challenges N.A. power grid

88 GW of generating capacity is confirmed for retirement

Everything from the growth of electric vehicles to crypto mining is seen as a challenge to the North American power grid, according to the latest report from the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC).

NERC is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority. NERC’s area of responsibility spans the continental United States, Canada, and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico. NERC is the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) for North America, subject to oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and governmental authorities in Canada. NERC’s jurisdiction includes users, owners, and operators of the bulk power system, which serves nearly 400 million people.

NERC’s 2022 Long-Term Reliability Assessment identifies energy and capacity risks that underscore the need for reliability to be a top priority for resource and system planners in North America as the energy transition unfolds. The assessment concludes that planners and operators of the grid must increasingly account for different characteristics and performance of resources being brought online during the energy transition.

“The bulk power system is undergoing unprecedented change on a scale and at a speed that challenges the ability to foresee and design for its future state,” said John Moura, NERC’s director of Reliability Assessment and Performance Analysis. “Managing the transformation and proactively preparing for the role that the grid will play is the greatest challenge to reliability over the next 10 years. Our assessment provides valuable insight into the reliability risks facing the bulk power system as it is shaped by government policies, regulations, consumer preferences and economic factors.”

The LTRA highlights five trends: integration of inverter-based resources (IBRs), growth in distributed energy resources (DERs), generation retirements, flat transmission growth and increased demand growth that, without careful planning, could negatively impact the ability of the bulk power system to service the energy needs in North America over the next 10 years.

“The energy and capacity risks identified in this assessment underscore the need for reliability to be a top priority for the resource and system planning community of stakeholders,” the report states. “Planning and operating the grid must increasingly account for different characteristics and performance in electricity resources as the energy transition continues.”

Among specific suggestions, the organization calls for:

  • Manage the pace of generator retirements until solutions are in place that can continue to meet energy needs and provide essential reliability services
  • Include extreme weather scenarios in resource and system planning
  • Address IBR performance and grid integration issues
  • Expand resource adequacy evaluations beyond reserve margins at peak times to include energy risks for all hours and seasons
  • Increase focus on DERs as they are deployed at increasingly impactful levels
  • Mitigate the risks that arise from growing reliance on just-in-time fuel for electric generation and the interdependent natural gas and electric infrastructure
  • Consider the impact that the electrification of transportation, space heating, and other sectors may have on future electricity demand and infrastructure.
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